Harvey Pekar, the ordinary guy behind the slice-of-life comic series American Splendor, died early Monday morning at the age of 70. Pekar was an accomplished dramatist — the New York Times once compared his work to that of Chekhov and Dostoevsky — but he was just as skilled at being a public figure, something like the Cleveland’s unofficial Poet Laureate. The Pekar who cropped in interviews and talk show appearances was open and gregarious but also fiercely opinionated, lacking both a celebrity’s flash and sheen and a ‘real’ normal person’s camera-shyness and awkwardness. To celebrate that side of the artist, NewsFeed presents The Five Best Videos of Harvey Pekar.
Everything You Wanted to Know About Harvey Pekar
If any readers were worried about not knowing enough about Harvey, this 36-minute PBS interview is as good a place to start as any. In it, Harvey discusses his life and career with his trademark honesty and good cheer. “I’m always looking for legitimacy,” he says. “As well as money, of course.”
Late Night Battle Royale
Pekar became a minor celebrity in the 1980s thanks to his appearances as a guest on Late Night with David Letterman. But by 1987 he had seemingly tired of the way Letterman treated him, or of showbiz in general — or both. The result was this confrontation, where Harvey calls Dave out on his “simple-minded bull—-” and tries to spread the word about the wrongdoings of General Electric (NBC’s parent company). Dave gets the music to cut him off, and clearly holds a grudge. Watch him get his revenge a year later:
NewsFeed likes David Letterman in general, but he can be a real jerk sometimes.
Grocery Shopping with Harvey Pekar
Not that anyone ever asked, but Harvey Pekar would definitely be on NewsFeed’s Top 10 Celebrities with Whom to Go Grocery Shopping. Thanks to Smith Magazine’s Pekar Project, which followed the author around his daily travels, now we can see what it would would have been like. With his charmingly nasal Cleveland accent, Pekar could make even jalapeno cheese bread sound comforting.
Talking about Comics
In another video from the Pekar Project, Harvey takes some time out in the library to discuss his influences and explain his process of collaboration with the artists who draw American Splendor. And as a bonus, there’s a baby, so both ends of the cute/curmudgeonly spectrum are well-represented.
Who is Harvey Pekar?
OK, so this video, from the American Splendor movie, technically doesn’t feature the real Harvey Pekar. But it does feature Paul Giamatti turning in a hell of a performance playing him, and gives a great illustration of the way Harvey could often get lost in his own thoughts.